Now more than ever people are wondering if what they eat can help to protect their health. While a healthy, balanced diet won’t make you invincible, getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals can help to support a healthy immune system, (1) which can help your body to better fend off illness.
Some of the vitamins and minerals that can help keep your immune system strong include vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, and B12, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc. (1) Some food sources of these vitamins and minerals are listed below. The food products listed are relatively shelf-stable, and many can be found canned or frozen.
- Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, cooked spinach (2)
- Vitamin C: fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned) (3)
- Vitamin D: cow’s milk, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified orange juice, fatty fish, egg yolks (4)
- Vitamin E: nuts & nut butters, sunflower seeds, avocado, cooked spinach, canned tomato sauce (5)
- Vitamin B2: enriched grain products, dairy products, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, beans (6)
- Vitamin B6: meat, poultry, nuts, seeds, eggs, soy, beans (6)
- Vitamin B12: meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified nutritional yeast (7)
- Folic Acid: legumes, spinach, peanut butter, enriched grain products, bananas (8)
- Iron: meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, tofu, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts, seeds, enriched grains (9)
- Selenium: brazil nuts, oysters, canned tuna, couscous, pinto beans, whole wheat bread (10)
- Zinc: oysters, beans, lentils, turkey, cheese, nappa cabbage, yogurt, wheat germ (11)
While these vitamins and minerals are important for our overall health, it is important to remember that more is not always better; consuming large amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in the form of supplements can be toxic. If you are considering introducing vitamin and/or mineral supplements to your routine, consult with your doctor or registered dietitian first!
There are some products being advertised online that claim to further boost your immunity against the coronavirus. Please note that there are currently no products (including specific foods and vitamin/mineral supplements) that have been approved by the Government of Canada to prevent, treat or cure the coronavirus. (12) While eating a balanced diet, physical activity and adequate rest all play an important role in supporting the immune system, the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to practice physical distancing, wash your hands often and avoid all non-essential travel. For more information, visit the Government of Canada website at www.Canada.ca.
Nutrition Assessment Clinic will continue to offer nutrition counselling services using video conferencing technology. If you are interested in meeting with one of our dietitians via video, please call the clinic or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Maggini, S., Pierre, A., Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune function and micronutrient requirements change over the life course. Nutrients, 10(10): 1531. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212925/
- International Society for Immunonutrition. (2020). ISIN position statement on nutrition, immunity and COVID-19. Retrieved from http://www.immunonutrition-isin.org/docs/isinComunicadoCovid19.pdf
- Zhang, L., Liu, Y. (2020). Potential interventions for novel coronavirus in China: A systematic review. Journal of Medical Virology, 92(5):479-490. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about vitamin A. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Vitamin-A.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about vitamin C. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-vitamin-C.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about vitamin D. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-Vitamin-D.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about vitamin E. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Vitamin-E.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). Sports nutrition: Facts on vitamins and minerals. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Physical-Activity/Sports-Nutrition-Facts-on-Vitamins-and-Minerals.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about vitamin B12. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Vitamin-B12.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). Facts about folate. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/Facts-about-Folate.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about iron. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-To-Know-About-Iron.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). The scoop on selenium. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/The-Scoop-on-Selenium.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2019). What you need to know about zinc. In UnlockFood.ca. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/-What-You-Need-to-Know-about-Zinc.aspx
- Government of Canada. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks.html?topic=tilelink&fbclid=IwAR182to_wyCgOH7JxxvVvB35yugOppq-WF7r4Zwb08eD5ItwczF54q3MxRc#h
Author: Mikaela Horton, MHSc(c), RD for nutritionassessment.com